Key Verse: “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.”
IN BIBLE TIMES, LEPERS were treated as outcasts. Leprosy was, at that time, an incurable disease, and considered very infectious. Caused by a slow-growing type of bacteria, it resulted in severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage. It also produced deformity, crippling, and even blindness. Under the Jewish Law, lepers had to remain in isolation. (Lev. 13:46) They had no means of earning a living and were dependent upon their family, or the charity of friends or strangers.
In our lesson, as Jesus was approaching Jerusalem by way of Samaria and Galilee, there were ten lepers along the roadside. When they heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, immediately they called to him as loudly as they could. Ordinarily, the appeal of a leper was for money, but in this case it was “Master, have mercy on us.”—Luke 17:11-13
In answer to their cry, Jesus said to the ten lepers, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” (vs. 14) According to God’s arrangement with the Jews under their Law Covenant, the priests were to pass judgment upon cases of leprosy, determining whether or not the disease was indeed leprosy, or if a person was clean. (see Leviticus chapters 13 and 14) Jesus’ instruction implied a possibility of healing, suggesting that when they would reach the priests, they would be pronounced clean.
The ten lepers exercised faith, and instead of crying out for instantaneous healing, they simply followed Jesus’ command. As they walked to the priests, they found themselves cured. What urgency they must have now had! If, when they presented themselves to the priests they were declared clean, they would finally be allowed to return to their families and friends.
After being pronounced clean, one of the former lepers returned to Jesus, falling at his feet, and glorifying God, as stated in our Key Verse. He was a Samaritan, a group with whom the Israelites usually did not associate. (John 4:9) Jesus called attention to the fact that only one of the ten returned to thank him. However, to that one he said, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”—Luke 17:17-19
In the Bible, leprosy is symbolic of sin. The ten lepers are in many ways similar to the fallen race of mankind, many of whom have realized they are unclean and have cried out to the Lord for cleansing, acknowledging his greatness and power as the Son of God. (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) Many have declared to the Lord their desire for forgiveness of sins, but as time passes they forget their privileges resulting from such a blessing. Few indeed have remembered their prayers to the Lord for mercy, and therefore neglect to glorify God in their daily activities of life.
The Samaritan in our lesson well represents a small class of grateful followers of the Lord who, with thankfulness and faith, seek to give him glory in their words, thoughts and doings. The heavenly call during the present Gospel Age has been to find and develop those few who will constitute the Bride class, the associates of Jesus in his kingdom. May each of us continue to develop, with thankfulness, faith in our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, Christ Jesus, applying more and more the Lord’s instructions and principles in our daily walk.